Aug 30 2010

free samples: vector motifs from christopher dresser “studies in design”

Every so often (though probably not on a set schedule) I will post free downloads of vector design motifs, patterns, borders, taken from decorative arts sources of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of the designers represented: Rene Beauclaire, Christoper Dresser, Eugene Grasset, Owen Jones, William Morris, Auguste Racinet, Maurice Pillard Verneuil. Charles F.A. Voysey, as well as lesser-known designers.

Designs are ‘hand’ traced and in full color. The plates used as the tracing source have faded so the colors may not be an exact match to the original. Colors are rendered in RGB mode which provides the widest gamut for the closest match. Files are fully customizable (colors, proportions, shapes, etc.) using Illustrator. As vector drawings, the designs are fully scalable so they can be adapted for use in websites or for print. Color rendering can be changed to CMYK if needed for printing.

Files are available in Illustrator .ai format (including pattern swatches and pattern border brushes). Non-repeatable motifs are also available in .eps format.

These free examples are part of larger collections that can be purchased. The catalogue of currently available collections can be found in the Marketplace (in the right sidebar).

Both the Marketplace and the collection of free samples is growing, so bookmark this page.


Sample vector motifs from Studies in Design, Christoper Dresser (1834-1904):

Download Illustrator (.ai) files (

Download .eps files (

Purchase 40 motifs from Studies in Design – $11.00

Jan 13 2010

illustrator techniques: use custom brushes to create a custom border or frieze

The technique of making a custom border in Illustrator is similar to specifying a pattern. View the example starting motif and the finished border.

Start with a linear pattern that you wish to repeat seamlessly. I found this albatross motif which I (hand) traced in Illustrator.

And generated at least one instance of a seamless repeat by copying and pasting and filling in the missing segment.

First, make sure all of the elements of the motif are grouped together: Select > All and then Object > Group

This will also place all of the objects on the same layer.

Make sure the rulers are visible: View > Show Rulers

Find the edges of the repeat and drag guide lines from the vertical ruler to align with each of the edges. Try to be precise so there are no gaps or overlaps in the repeated design.

Make sure the guides are locked: View > Guides > Lock Guides. Make sure there is a check mark next to Lock Guides. Click to toggle the lock on or off.

With the Rectangle Tool (1), draw a box with no fill and no border (2) that completely encompasses the area to be repeated.

Select All again and choose Crop (1) from the Pathfinder panel (2).

This should result in a single instance of the repeat.

Note: If the original design includes complex appearances or blends, you may have to expand the appearances (Object > Expand Appearance) or expand strokes and fills (Object > Expand…) before cropping.

Select All again and open the Brushes panel (1). Make a new brush (2) and select New Pattern Brush (3):

Frm the Pattern Brush Options dialogue box, name the brush (1) and click on the Side Tile indicator (2) and click OK:

To test the repeat, use the Pen Tool (1) to draw a straight line (2):

Select the line. From the Brushes Panel (1), choose the new custom brush (2):

To change the size of the border, first select Object > Transform > Scale…

From the Scale dialogue box, make sure Scale Stroke & Effects is checked:

With the line segment selected and holding down the Shift ket, pull the upper corner handles out:

Jul 3 2008

Eugene Grasset

Eugene Grasset, Thistle from Plants and Their Application to OrnamentThe next series of vector reproductions is from Eugene Grasset’s Plants and Their Application to Ornament A Nineteenth-Century Design Primer which was published in 1897. Somewhat earlier than Christopher Dresser, Grasset was more of a contemporary of William Morris, Eugene Grasset was more famous in his time as a designer of French-style posters and magazine cover designs.

Plants and Their Application to Ornament begins with a study of one of the garden plants from which stylized design variations are generated. His designs are generally Art Nouveau or Art and Crafts style and quite archetypical of the period. Some are representational of how these designs would be applied as decoration to different media (wallpaper, fabric, tiles, stained glass, carved wood, metal,porcelain) or as decorative patterns, borders, and motifs. They betray his background as a decorative materials designer before turning to illustration.


All of the original plates were reproduced by a pochoir (literally ‘stencil’) print process, which was a precursor of silk screen printing. The originals are very graphic and lend themselves to vector illustration. As such, they can be used in period reproduction or adapted for contemporary design elements.

Below is the first in an ambitious series. The collection will eventually grow to include design variations for 33 garden plants. View completed plates here.